Fifty five meters… At first it was hard to picture in my mind exactly what that would look like: A 20 story building? Fifty of my 4th graders stacked on top of each other? The minimum-height snappa toss for zpriest not to call low? It seemed unreal to me that I would find myself standing on a ledge that high with nothing between me and the ground below but a cord I could wrap one hand around, but there I was, over 175 feet above Gapyeong river, shivering in the icy wind.
Wait – let’s back up a bit. So last weekend I decided to get a crew together for a trip to Seoul. Megan had finally arrived in Korea and I wanted to show her the city and introduce her to my new friends, and the biggest bungee tower happened to be an hour away from downtown. We all met up Saturday and partied in Hongdae knowing that it might be one of our last nights alive – free drinks for foreigners supplied the liquid courage to solidify our plan: Sunday we would wake up early and head for Gapyeong, the only currently open (and the highest) bungee tower in Korea.
A little worse for the wear the next day, we hit the bus station and made our way to the proving grounds. I can honestly say I was never nervous until a moment where I started looking at the buildings rising up around the station and imagining my toes hanging off the edge. Luckily, that only lasted until we saw the tower itself and the people jumping off it – 55 meters tall and built like a crane, the tower rises over a riverbed and literally sways slightly in the wind. We had to wait for a big group ahead of us before getting our $30 tickets and getting ready. Megan didn’t feel reassured by the sight of Koreans plummeting off the platform, so she opted out and took the role of camera-woman, but Ryan and I and six other friends met at the base of the platform for our “safety instructions.”
I could not tell you a SINGLE thing the instructor said – it was all in mumble-y Korean so we mostly relied on hand gestures and luck to survive. Ryan was next to me when we were putting our harnesses on, and his shoulder straps wouldn’t connect in the back. He shed one layer of jacket and then another so that he was only wearing a t-shirt in the chilliest of beans, but the buckle wasn’t quite closing. The instructor said “sorry, no jumpuh, ok?” and patted Lernier on the back, but I felt like he wasn’t trying hard enough. I said “are you serious?” and yanked the straps together til the buckle clipped, and everyone was good to go…if a little sketched out…
I finally ascended to the top of the platform in a rickety yellow box that held a couple people at a time…it was me, one of the TaLK teachers, and two Korean girls on the verge of tears. I was still feeling good at that point…and then I got out of the ‘vator and looked over the edge.
Things to NOT do when bungee jumping:
A) don’t be gigantic, or don’t wear jackets, and
B) don’t look over edges.
I immediately experienced a split second where I thought, “WHAT THE HEY AM I DOING I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS”, but luckily it passed quickly and I was able to function enough to walk over to the jump point. The two Korean girls were first, so I gave them a “Highting!” for encouragement. Koreans are always yelling that, which confused me for quite a while. They actually mean “fighting!” but can’t pronounce the F sound, so they just pretend it isn’t there. Even knowing what they’re attempting to say doesn’t make too much sense, but at least now you know why I’ll be yelling it before snappa tosses when I return.
After they plunged, I walked to my doom. The operator attached the cord to my back and told me to put my arms out, and started counting down from five. By the time I realized he were counting down it was too soon to jump so I said “WAIT, start over” and got ready to go. This time, I launched from the platform and hurdled towards the ground. It felt like FOREVER before I felt the cord pulling me back, back, and up into the air again. I barely remember yelling but in the video I’m going totally crazy…the rush was unbelievable, unlike anything else I can remember doing, especially the first moment after your feet leave the edge and you realize there’s no going back.
After the bungee settles a little bit, this old man in the most ghetto dingy rows over and pulls you down into the boat. Megan described it this way: if you remember the game MASH that little kids play, the worst future job choice was always trash man or janitor, but it should be this boat guy. Seriously the quality of this boat took all credibility away from the whole operation.
Somehow, every single one of us who got as far as the top of the platform managed to make the jump…maybe because the elevator ride down was too humiliating a prospect. If you’ve never tried it, GO! Bungee jumping in Korea was a huge highlight of my trip and I can’t wait to go again. Check out the vid at the bottom of the post!
So uhhhh, describing that took longer than I thought, so I’ll keep the rest of this short. Having Megan here and traveling around Korea without any responsibilities and the ability to do anything we wanted was easily one of the best times of my whole adult life. Everyone in Hapcheon had finally gotten used to seeing this white boy walking around, but the stares came back with a vengeance when Megan and her luggage (honestly not sure which was attracting more stares) came off the bus for the first time. Best thing in her suitcase? Miniature white Christmas tree, complete with ornaments, to decorate my room…did not see that one coming. She did such a good job adapting to the time change, new food, and different culture that I know we’ll definitely be doing more traveling in the future.
Now I just have to survive the next four and a half weeks of school, no breaks, and start getting ready to go home to calllliiiiiforrrrrniaaaa. Keep me posted on your new years plans – looks like I’ll be in norcal, but who knows? BTW – if you want to see Lernier on koryanbrian again, start harrassing him too – he’s probably got another post or two up his sleeves.
PREVIEW OF NEXT WEEKEND: Thanksgiving feast (seriously stoked), daytime snappa at the rocknroll bar (counting down the minutes), and trying to finish this pile of Pepero (thanks Niedermeyer).
Here’s my vid, and then Ryan’s… but, um, turn down the volume when you’re watching his…